Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Suzuki Swift mini-review

We have been on a car hunting spree recently. After heading to the Suzuki showroom at least 2 other times without doing a test drive (Champion Motors staff look very bored and the place is truly dreary!), we finally mustered up the courage to ask for a drive of the Suzuki Swift 1.5A last weekend.

The car itself doesn't look small up close - namely because it is tall but the interior is tiny. The boot especially is really tiny - much smaller than the Honda Jazz and the Golf. I would place the boot to be the same size as the Mini-Cooper - which means really small. Being a family man - things like "can it fit a pram" will concern me and the boot space looks barely able to accommodate. Suzuki provides a 2 level rear boot shelf though, so u COULD probably fit a pram below and groceries above on the shelf.

Don't expect too much in terms of interior build quality - nearly everything is nasty nasty hard plastic. The steering wheel, although ugly, feels pretty good though.

During the test drive, which was strictly via the route (grouchy old sales man really irritated), the car exhibited exceptionally zippy handling. I haven't tested the Mini but it sure was close to go-kart handling. Again, the car was let down by the engine. Hardly a bad engine, it was fairly revvy and nice but to be frank, the power wasn't there at all. I would recommend anyone considering the 1.5A to get the 1.6 Sport version instead, however, the pricing of the sport version at 63k is a bit steep. The 1.5A version that we tested went for around 54k (still steep if u ask me, Champion is making more money than it should with their cars, go PI!).

I liked the Swift. It really is, at half the price, the poor man's Mini (the Cooper costs SGD103k). Unfortunately, because of the space it provides, it is great only as a second car for family men.

Best color for the car: White or Blue Graphite.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Singapore Prawn noodles

Just found a blog that has good prawn mee reviews (

Not to be confused with fried Hokkien noodles, the typical Singapore Prawn noodle store includes whole prawns (or slices of de-shelled prawns) together with thick yellow noodles in a nice fragrant stock made from prawn shells. They sometimes add pork ribs or pork slices, kang kong and some even include fish cake. This dish typically comes dry or in a soup.

If you want really good tasting soup stock, go at the end of the day when it is the tastiest because the soup has had the longest time to absorb the flavor of the prawn shells.

The stores I typically go to in Singapore for my Prawn noodle fix are:

- Adam Road Noo Kee (best so far, 8/10?, however, some say standards have dropped)
- Zion Road (nearly as good as Adam 7.5/10, branch of the Adam Rd store?)
- Whitley Road Big Prawn Mee (8/10, next to Novena IRAS, still very reliably good)

I have also tried the Prawn noodles in

- Jalan Sultan Prawn mee, near the Kallang MRT station (prawns not always clean, had a royal rash once)
- Beach Road Blanco Court, opposite (just soup not bad)

and they royally SUCK.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Digital Cameras with Rotating LCDs

In my opinion, rotating LCDs (Canon calls them vari-angle LCDs, other manufacturers call them flip and twist LCDs) are an essential feature for digital cameras. They bring many advantages to the photographer e.g. being able to shoot from high/low angles, take self-portraits, offer some protection for the fragile LCD during travel, reducing the "arms outstretched staring at the LCD look", allowing stealthy photography. To me, a small pocketable digicam with a WA lens and a rotating LCD (ideally with image stabilization or vibration reduction) would make the ideal travel camera. Most of the cameras I owned previously have this important feature - e.g. Canon A610, Olympus c5060.

Which is why I feel it is a shame that camera manufacturers have neglected to include this feature into new releases. Canon, for example, had a large range of cameras with the feature (including the A-series, S-series and the G-series) before pulling the plug on this with current releases e.g. the A710IS, G7/G9. Only the S-series has this feature by default and also selected A-series cameras. Apparently, there are some patent issues that restrict other manufacturers to include the "vari-angle" design into their cameras... boo on you Canon.

I have included a small manually compiled list of current digicams with a rotating LCD (readers please contribute with other cameras which I may have missed out), a big "boo-hoo" to DPReview for not including this in their features search, cmon guys its time to update your search criteria.

- Canon PowerShot A650 IS
- Canon PowerShot S5 IS
- Canon PowerShot TX1 *not really a camera this..

- Nikon Coolpix S10

- Olympus E-3

- Sony Cyber-shot H9 (only allows tilt, better than nothing I suppose..)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bowling at Warren

Brought Harry to bowl again at Warren. Bowled a terrible 120+ average and as usual made the same release error of forcing the shot > not relaxing my arm on the throw and subsequently following through straight up instead of rotating my arm/wrist anti-clockwise. Everything went into the 3-7 pocket. grrr

Harry was bowling better though with the bumpers. :)

Was reminded why I stopped bowling previously, irritating bowlers on the right who don't follow lane etiquette. There was also an irritating operator who made noise when we used the bumpers when Harry wasnt bowling :p.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

VW Golf GT mini review

1.4 liters isnt a lot. A large PET bottle of Coke is already 1.5l.

Which is why it is amazing that that same exact 1.4l can power the new VW Golf GT from 0-100kmh in 7.7s. I had a test drive today at VW Singapore and the power that this little gem can produce is truly amazing. The SGD80k Golf 1.6 FSI I drove beforehand had a full 200cc over the GT, and it felt pretty good. However, the SGD98k GT felt like a totally different car altogether even though it looks externally not much different from a regular Golf. It handled better, it was more precise and the power... oh boy the power...
Of course, it isn't just the TSI engine that makes such a difference between the GT and the regular 1.6 Golf. The GT has VW's 6 speed DSG (think smooth gearchanges) and also VW's sports suspension that lowered the car by 15mm in addition to a nicer cabin with sports seats and nicer steering wheel. Which all serves to add up to one big question - why choose the 120k GTI over this baby?
Best color for the car: Chili Red or Black.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chicken Rice wars... in Singapore

There are so many chicken rice stalls in Singapore, you could probably eat at a different store every day in a year and still not eat them all. This is not even counting the variations of chicken rice - e.g. Malay style, Indian brani style.... Please do not do that since u would surely fall flat due to heart disease or something. Chicken rice is a pretty fatty and unhealthy food.

Since I want to maintain a healthy lifestyle... yeah right.. I only eat chicken rice ever so often... hmm maybe once in 2 weeks? But I am pretty sure I have tasted some really good chicken rice over the years. Some of my favorites are:

1. Boon Tong Kee - Thomson branch opposite Novena Church. I really dont fancy the other branches... especially the upscale ones.

2. Loy Kee at Whampoa - best for the non-roasted version. I actually prefer the chilli at Loy Kee compared to other places

3. Tong Fong Fatt at Ghim Moh Market - really tasty rice in this one.

4. Margaret Drive store (on second floor) - this one is famous because of its tie ups with the other store (same store??) for wan ton soup. Nothing really special about this version.

5. Hainanese chicken rice at Alexandra Market - I like this one because $3.50 buys u a huge portion with achar and a MSG laden soup.

6. Blk 33 Dover Rd - there are 2 stalls here visible from the carpark as you drive in. I think both are nice but I like the one in the middle for its roasted version. Try the watermelon juice at the drinks store next door as well.. great for $1.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mini-Zs from Kyosho

Lots of people play with RC toys and when these get too boring or break, dump them for actual cars. For myself, that was also the case, however, I still have my Audi Quattro car from my childhood days in my dad's place.

In my case, I have gone back to RC with Mini-Zs. However, like Kyosho has written in their catalog, Mini-Zs can't be called RC Toys. They drive like mini-cars (or 1:28 scale versions) and follow the same driving dynamics because of proportional steering and the way the cars are designed. Well, not really. Mini-Z cars have much more power in proportion to their weight unlike normal cars (power to weight ratio). For example, I can easily break traction and slide on a slippery surface like the wooden floor of my living room especially with the reverse gear which has that much more torque.

A Readyset Mini-Z kit comes with a radio transmitter and a single car cover on a chassis all ready to go except for adding batteries (8AAs and 4AAAs) and screwing in the antenna.

Mini-Zs come in many chassis types -

  1. MR-01 (the original config with batteries one on top of another),
  2. MR-02 (different battery config and batteries side by side),
  3. MR-015 (same battery config as MR-01 but with different/cheaper electronics and no brake) which are rear wheel drive cars, and
  4. MA-010 which is front wheel drive.

and mounts - i.e. RM - rear mount "engine"/motor, MM - mid mount, and HM - high mount (actually rear mount also).

I bought a lovely red Lamborghini Jota MR-015MM i-Series (which is kind of like a lower spec Mini-Z for beginners) for $139 in Singapore and a really cool black Enzo MR-02MM. I also got a whole bunch of covers, a red Enzo, a black and a silver Mclaren F1, a black BMW M3 and a white VW Golf GTI - Kyosho calls them Autoscale models just for the heck of it and bcos I love the look of model cars. My plan is to get a display case for the cars plus my other 1:24 scale die-cast models - a black Porsche Carrera, a green Lamborghini Murcielago and a black BMW Z8. I figured since I am hitting middle age and cant afford any of these in real life.. what the heck..

Some links to Mini-Z guides I found..

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ferrari Enzo Test Car (Kyosho Mini-Z MR02MM)

The Ferrari Enzo is one of the premier supercars in the world today (out of production) capable of 0-62mph times of 3.6s and a top speed of 217mph. Even though others might be faster e.g. the Mclaren F1 (243mph) and quicker to 62mph i.e. Bugatti Veyron (2.5s, the Bugatti also can reach 254mph), I dont think any supercar can match the sheer looks and presence of the Enzo. Even the name Enzo sounds good. Imagine telling pp that you have a Veyron.. the looks you would get.. what Veron huh... blahaha

Well, I can boast that I have 2 Enzos... a Black Test car version and a Red one for everyday driving.. ha!

Lamborghini Jota (Kyosho Mini-Z MR015MM)

The Lamborghini Jota was a one-off make of the Miura made by one of their ex-employees. Most of the changes made to create the Jota were internal - namely the aluminium construction and the tweaked engine! I loved the Miura, one the sexiest cars ever made (especially the lime green ones) so it was easy to decide that I was going to get a Jota for my first Mini-Z. Plus the fact that the alternative was a really crappy Ford or a Alfa.

I hope the rumors of a new Miura are true, at least the prototypes look cool..
This car, as well as the new HSC concept by Honda are some of my top cars to look forward to in the coming years.

As for the Mini-Z version of the Jota, I usually drive it at home on my shiny wooden floor and the car really likes to do donuts. Cant say I complain about the power as well however full power will make the car skate over the floor. It probably will do well on a proper RCP track since then, it wont skid and slide so much and have much more traction. It runs on an i-Series board which I have not been able to get much documentation on from Kyosho. Seems fine so far.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bowling..revised and revisited

Bowled quite a lot in Wisconsin. I remember the Point Bowl ( where I still have a yellow free game card when I hit a strike when I got a yellow headpin. People like Rico, Hwee Fung etc introduced me to the game.

In Siemens, we used to bowl quite often, at Jalan Sultan at Textile center. I bought a ball to get "more serious" in the game after I left the co. Not knowing anything about buying a ball (I had only used polyester balls at the bowling alley previously), I headed into the proshop at West Bowl and the pro recommended me a Brunswick Rhino Dusty Blue. At 14 lbs, it was the heaviest ball I had used and it was made of urethane. Using a house ball, I normally used 12 lbs but as the pro explained, a correct drilling would allow me to control a 14lbs ball easily. It was the first time I had ever used a fingertip grip and the drilling gave me a mild hook shot.
Later, my wife bought me a Ebonite 8-ball and 2-ball bag with wheels for my birthday at Victor Superbowl and she got herself a Columbia White Dot. We bowled semi-often mainly at Victors or Marina Superbowl until one day, we just stopped bowling. Too many hobbies I guess.. :p
We just brought Harry to the alley at Warren last Sunday and I think we will start bowling again since he seems to enjoy it.